Shawn Thornton: “I never thought I’d play in the NHL, let alone win a Cup.”

On July, 1 2014 F Shawn Thornton shipped out of Boston and set his sights on South Florida, signing a two-year, $2.4 million contract. Thornton has been a well-known enforcer within the NHL for over a decade and has not only a wealth of experience that he’s gained through the years, but two Stanley Cup rings to boot. The 6’2″ 217 lb, bruiser spent seven seasons with the Boston Bruins and his leadership and hard work on and off the ice, as well as his intimidation factor were revered in the city of Boston.

Like in the summer of 2011, Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon swam a couple of  laps in the Free Agency pool looking for the right pieces to the Florida puzzle during this summer, and made a splash signing six new players, including Thornton. A familiar face for Tallon, Thornton was a part of the Chicago Blackhawks during Tallon’s tenure in the Windy City. Looking for experience and toughness on a young Panthers team, Thornton and Tallon working out a deal seemed like a no-brainer.

“Florida was my first choice.” said Thornton, “I like where the team is going. He (Tallon) was talking about the moves he was going to make in the offseason. I obviously know Dale from Chicago. (We) Love the area. I’ve already been down a couple of times checking it out with the wife, and we’re really excited to be a part of it.”

Thornton, 37 is an elder statesman on a Panthers team whose core players are just reaching, or are barely at legal drinking age yet. The veteran winger knows his role within the team and sees the talent that this team possesses, some of whom he’s taken notice of since playing against them in the past.

“The skill level is obviously second to none. I was actually asking Tuukka (Rask) about (Aleksander) Barkov last year because I didn’t know much about him, but playing against him you definitely notice him. Playing against (Erik) Gudbranson the last couple years, he was extremely hard to play against. I knew every time I went into the corner there was going to be a rough one coming out. These guys are starting to come into their own, their young kids are starting to play the game the right way.”

A humble man, Thornton looks to be an approachable member of the team for the young guys, willing to instill his wisdom whenever need be.

“I never thought I’d play in the NHL, let alone win a Cup. I’m very fortunate where my career has taken me. (Willie) Mitchell and (Dave) Bolland have both won twice. We aren’t going to come into the locker room and say ‘this is how I did it’, ‘this is how I did it’ and ‘this is how I did it’. Kids ask questions, and they’d like to know what it’s about and some things that I may have picked up along the way. Any type of advice and experience I am more than happy to share.”

Off the ice, Thornton created the Shawn Thornton Foundation . Started up in 2013, Thornton’s foundation is dedicated to helping find cures for Parkinson’s disease and cancer. A proponent of a strong community presence, Thornton looks forward to getting involved in South Florida as he has done in the past with his previous teams.

“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve always tried to embrace the community. I think you get a better feel for people in the area when you’re out and about doing most things. I think we’re very, very fortunate to do what we do for a living. To take an hour out of our day a few times a month to put some smiles on faces is the least we can do.”

The enforcer from Oshawa, Ontario will be continuing his offseason training with a trip on Tuesday to Los Angeles, California where he will work with legendary Boxing Trainer, Freddie Roach. A Six-time Boxing Trainer of the year, Roach has worked with countless boxers including Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins and Miguel Cotto as well as several Mixed Martial Artists including Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, Tito Ortiz and Jose Aldo.

Although seen as a fighter on the ice, Thornton isn’t training for just fighting, but for the conditioning aspect that Roach instills in his program. Thornton views fights on the ice versus the ring as “a different animal”.

Thornton will bring a much-needed edge to the Panthers this season, and with his willingness to drop the gloves with anyone brave enough to return the favor, he could be a fan favorite in Sunrise just as he was in Boston.





Which NHL Playoff Team Should You Root For?

Panther Parkway Playoff Preview

We’re hours away from puck drop for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs and it donned on me (and on all around good guy Jameson Cooper) that there may be thousands and possibly millions of you readers out there who don’t have a vetted interest in a team this year. Your team may have not made it to the post-season, you could be a new fan or you could have amnesia…if that’s the case, thanks for reading and consult a physician immediately after reading this post. Whatever the reason may be, if you need to latch on to a team for the post-season then do I have a piece for you! There are 16 teams in this year’s post season, some are good, some are really good, some are really really really good and some are just OK. Let’s take a look at which team may be a good fit for you.

Anaheim Ducks

Do you like Disney movies about a scrappy gang of youths melded together by the bonds of teamwork, being poor, and national pride? If so then the Ducks could be the team you’re looking for. Don’t be confused by their captain’s lack of hair – he’s amazing at hockey and will not let you down if you’re looking for a deep playoff run. The kicker is 92 year Teemu Selanne, who is retiring at the end of these playoffs, so if you’re into nostalgia and crying then you’re on the right path.

Boston Bruins

Nobody in their right mind should cheer for the Bruins so if you’re not in your right mind you can cheer for them I guess. Also I hate you.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have been the toast of the NHL for a while now. If you’re that person who wants instant gratification then hitch your horse to the wagon and hang on for dear life. If you’re the person who has never seen a Rocky movie, watches Rocky 4 ,and then tells everyone that you love every Rocky movie then cheer for the Blackhawks.

Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche is made up from a group of young players with an excessive amount of high-end dynamic talent. Players like Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene (injured, but still), Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly and Paul Stastny, will surely make your eyes pop out of your head. They’re also coached by a crazy person. Their playoff hashtag is #whynotus so if you’re into innovative playoff hashtags you might want to look elsewhere for a team to support.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets have made the playoffs for the 2nd time in their history. Good for them right? If you like an underdog and or jokes about fellatio then you should fit right in with this fanbase. The Blue Jackets are this year’s working class blue-collar team so if you get a kick out of those Ford F-150 commercials where the announcer is pretty much reading everything on the screen, then go ahead and cheer for the Jackets.

Dallas Stars

Jamie Benn, best player by far, has led his Stars to the last playoff spot in the West. I’m sure all of Texas is behind them but if you feel like hootin’ and hollerin’ and ho-downin’ and other Texas slangs then hop right on this chuck wagon!

Detroit Red Wings

Detroit has made the playoffs 23 years in a row. They have won only 4 Stanley Cups in that span, so if you like high winning percentages, then don’t root for the Red Wings. If you like Sweden, rookies, cool breakaway moves and great coaching then they may be right up your alley.

Los Angeles Kings

All of LA’s top C list celebrities are totally into the Kings so if you want to head to Staples Center and snap a selfie with Matthew Perry then you’re in the right ballpark. The Kings are a team that Wayne Gretzky used to play for so if you want to impress your friends with that bit of trivia when explaining your fandom then wear that silver and black.

Minnesota Wild

Minnesota is the self-proclaimed “State of Hockey” which would be accurate if Michigan, New York, New Jersey, California, Missouri, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania all didn’t have hockey teams too. Liars.

Montreal Canadiens

Montreal has won the most Stanley Cups out of any NHL franchise with 24. They haven’t won one since 1993 so if you’re looking to get on board with a group of self-entitled history-clutching crazies, who are desperately waiting to see a cup win in their lifetime then mon ami/e you are knocking at the right door. Poutine is fantastic too, that should be good enough.

New York Rangers

The Rangers are one of three teams in New York (keep thinking of that third one). They’re like the Yankees if the Yankees have only won 4 World Series ever and haven’t won one since 1994 and the one before that was in 1940. If you like not having lofty expectations met then go put on a blue shirt.

Philadelphia Flyers

They sing America the Beautiful instead of the Star Spangled Banner so if you like alternate forms of patriotism then cheer for the Flyers. They’re also historically violent, made the Red Army team refuse to play against them because of it and their fans have the reputation of being a-holes. If this made you mad then you’re probably a Flyers fan already.

Pittsburgh Penguins

If you like cheering for the best at anything then step right up and feast your eyes on Sidney Crosby. Supporting the best hockey player in the world is reason enough to cheer for the Penguins and fans have been doing just that since 2005. I’d like to point out that former arguably best player in the world Mario Lemieux partly owns the team and will be shown frequently on TV throughout these playoffs so if you like passing torches from generation to generation then grab a Pens jersey and get ready to be disappointed by Marc Andre Fleury.

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks have never won a Stanley Cup and have the unfortunate reputation of being “playoff chokers.” If you like great teams with great players then cheer for the Sharks. If you like teal then cheer for the Sharks. If you like the Jaws theme song then cheer for the Sharks. If you want to get offended every time someone mentions the word “choke” then sheer for the Sharks. If you want to be part of their first cup win then don’t cheer for the Sharks because they’re kind of chokers.

St. Louis Blues

Another team without a Cup win ever. A lot of people don’t like the Blues so if you’re a fan of being the outcast who sticks up for their team no matter what horrible thing they do that makes everyone else angry then cheer for the Blues. American almost hero Ryan Miller is their starting goalie. You probably heard of him a few years ago.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Led by elite sniper Steven Stamkos for now, the Lightning are one of those cool teams that doesn’t end in an S. If you like the Oklahoma City Thunder then DEFINITELY cheer for the Lightning because then you can make your twitter handle @ThunderandLightning and you’ll be really cool.

By now you should have a team that suits you perfectly. If you’re still undecided, then refresh this page and read the post again. Go Hockey Go, enjoy the playoffs folks.

Jimmy Hayes Carving Out a Niche in Panthers Offense

In sports, there is nothing worse than an obstructed view.

Whether it’s a poorly designed arena or oversized fans, few things compare to the pains of struggling to catch a glimpse of the action right in front of you.

For NHL goalies, this pain has become all to real as Panthers forward Jimmy Hayes and his 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame have made life in the crease a lot more crowded for opponent’s netminders in recent games.

Jimmy Hayes (Kelsey Hinds @kelsey1344)

Jimmy Hayes (Kelsey Hinds @kelsey1344)

Following the team’s return from the Winter Olympic break, Panthers head coach Peter Horachek made it clear to Hayes that his ticket to more ice time would be earned in the trenches.

“I said this is where you’re going to make your mark,” said Horachek. “You’re going to be a big guy who’s hard to move.”

Arriving in an early season trade that sent forward Kris Versteeg to Chicago, Hayes has already set a new career-high goal total with seven and tied his career-high point total with nine. Additionally, his 19.4 shooting percentage is good enough for second on the team, just behind forward Drew Shore (27.8%).

“I’ve got to continue to be a big forward and that’s where I’m going to be successful,” Hayes said of his role with the Panthers. “I’ve got to be around the net and pound as many pucks in as I can in front of that crease.”

With two greasy goals in front of the net in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the visiting Boston Bruins, Hayes, 24, not only earned his first NHL multi-goal game, but was also rewarded with a season-high 16:21 TOI against his hometown team. A Boston native who grew up just minutes from the TD Garden, Hayes became a household name in Beantown after helping Boston College bring home a NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship in 2010.

“He’s playing limited minutes and he’s getting some time on the power play, but he hangs around the net and he’s wiling to go there and be there,” said Horachek.  “He’s around the right place at the right time and we need more of that.”

Looking ahead, Horachek will have to continue to rely on ugly, hard fought goals in the crease as his very inexperienced Panthers squad will look to stay competitive while playing against the NHL’s best defenses for the remainder of the 2013-14 regular season.

“I don’t think we’re going to score all our goals going down the stretch on the rush, so we’re going to have to be more diligent about going to the net,” said Horachek. “Getting those second chances, putting more screens, second opportunities and tips. That’s where the goals are going to be scored.”

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow Jameson on Twitter @JamesonCoop

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Panther Parkway Post-Game: Panthers vs. Bruins

Stars of the game

1st: Patrice Bergeron (1G-2A-3P)

2nd: Jimmy Hayes (2G-0A-2P)

3rd: Carl Soderberg (0G-1A-1P)

Goals (Bruins 5, Panthers 2 )

FLA: Jimmy Hayes (6) Assists: Nick Bjugstad, Sean Bergenheim

BOS: Andrej Meszaros (6) (Powerplay)  Assists: Reilly Smith, Patrice Bergeron

BOS: Torey Krug (13) Assists: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron

BOS: Patrice Bergeron (18) (Powerplay)  Assists: Loui Eriksson, Carl Soderberg 

FLA: Jimmy Hayes (7) Assists: Jonathan Huberdeau

BOS: Jarome Iginla (20) Assists: Milian Lucuc, Zdeno Chara

BOS: Chris Kelly (6) (Empty Net) Assists: Unassisted


Quote of the game

“I guess they call them greasy goals or dirty goals. I just call them goals because in the NHL right now you gotta be around the crease if you’re going to start scoring.”

-Peter Horachek on Jimmy Hayes two-goal night

Tweet of the game

Next Up

The Florida Panthers take on the Phoenix Coyotes at the BB&T Center, on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Tune into FOX Sports Florida to catch all of the action!

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Game Day Preview: Bruins vs. Panthers.

The Florida Panthers will host the Boston Bruins in a 5:00 P.M. matchup tonight that will have a setting which is significantly different than it was a few days ago.  The Panthers, who made trade deadline news by trading for Roberto Luongo, and trading away Tim Thomas, have a new look and feel.  Ironically with this matchup planned before the deadline, the Panthers planned to make this Tim Thomas bobblehead night as he likely would have faced his former team.  With Luongo in net, and Thomas now in Dallas, the Panthers will still hand out the bobblehads to the first 7,500 fans coming to the game.

The Panthers will be looking to prevent a season sweep to the Bruins who last beat the Panthers 4-1 on March 4th in a game that included a hat trick from Boston’s David Krejci.  With the punishing and physical way the Bruins play, this will be another test for the Panthers who have a new look since the last time these two met.

The big story of course is Roberto Luongo coming back to South Florida to solidify the goaltending.  Other additions include Brandon Pirri who came over from the Chicago Blackhawks, and the calling up from San Antonio of promising forward Vincent Trocheck.  All three players had solid home debuts in Friday’s victory over the Buffalo Sabres, and appeared to inject some enthusiasm and confidence into a team that sorely needed it.

[Read more…]

Q & A With New Panthers F Brandon Pirri

Before being buried under the media frenzy that surrounded Roberto Luongo’s return to Florida, the Panthers made headlines last week when they announced that they had acquired F Brandon Pirri from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a third-round pick in 2014 and a fifth-round pick in 2016.

A 2nd round draft pick (59th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Pirri, 22, has tallied 11 points (6-5-11) so far this season for the Blackhawks while competing in 28 games in mostly a bottom-six role.

Already one of the youngest teams in the NHL, Pirri will spend the last 21 games of the 2013-14 regular season trying to stand out as numerous players fight for limited roster spots heading into next season.

Getting ready to compete in his first home game at the BB&T Center, Pirri was nice enough to talk to Panther Parkway after today’s morning skate and shed a little light on the trade that sent him to Florida, as well as his first few days of being a Panther.

[Read more…]

Panther Parkway Post-Game: Panthers vs. Bruins

Stars of the game

1st: David Krejci (3G-0A-3P)

2nd: Chad Johnson (23-24 saves – .958 sv%)

3rd: Zdeno Chara (0G-0A-0P)

Goals (Bruins 4, Panthers 1)

BOS: David Krejci (14) Assists: Unassisted

BOS: Jarome Iginla (19) Assists: Jordan Caron, Chris Kelly

BOS: David Krejci (15) Assists: Kevan Miller

FLA: Brian Campbell (6) Assists: Sean Bergenheim

BOS: David Krejci (16) (Empty Net) Assists: Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla


What could possibly go down as the biggest blockbuster trade of the 2013-2014 season, the Florida Panthers traded G Jacob Markstrom and F Shawn Matthias in exchange for G Roberto Luongo.

Quote of the game

Tweet of the game

Next Up

The Florida Panthers take on the Buffalo Sabres at the BB&T Center, on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Tune into FOX Sports Florida to catch all of the action!

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Game Day Preview: Panthers vs. Bruins. Season Ticket On A One Way Ride

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 23-31-7 (53 PTS.) vs. BOSTON BRUINS: 38-17-5 (81 PTS.)

GAME DAY SONG:  HIGHWAY TO HELL, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

With the trade deadline quickly approaching, tonight’s game against the Boston Bruins could be the last for a few Florida Panther players.  Even by the time you read this pre-game post, players may have already been moved.  Nonetheless, Florida enters Boston in a bit of a tailspin, yet riding a positive victory Sunday afternoon against the New York Islanders.  After yet another slow start Sunday, the Panthers recovered from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Islanders 5-3.  Call them the comeback Cats, or the Cardiac Cats, the Panthers can’t continue playing this way against the NHL’s elite.  Head coach Peter Horachek isn’t all that thrilled with things:

“We seem to have a will to come back in those situations and find ways to score, but we’ve got to stop putting ourselves in that situation,” interim coach Peter Horachek said after the game.

The Panthers have now lost 7 of 10, and as the playoffs are now an afterthought, the focus on the balance of the season should be all about getting better, and giving a better effort on a consistent basis.  A worrisome stat is that Florida has allowed three or more goals in 11 of 12 games, and during a four game losing streak had allowed 19 goals.  Team defence has to improve, and the sloppy play needs to be cleaned up.  You’ve heard this before, and read those same words here on this site, but until that happens, the inconsistency will continue.  Let’s not forget that despite some very decent play at even strength, the power play is last in the league with only a 9.3% success rate, and the penalty killing unit has only killed off 75% of their chances.  Special teams have been deadly for Florida.

However there may be a breathe of fresh air for the Panthers tonight, as newcomer Brandon Pirri who was acquired for draft picks Sunday night, could make his Panther debut.  Pirri who appeared in 28 games for the Blackhawks this season put up 6 goals and 5 assists, yet found himself in the doghouse of Joel Quenneville who expects demands his players pay attention to defence.  Pirri, who was drafted 59th overall in 2009 has played in 26 games for the Rockford Icehogs, the AHL affiliate for the Blackhawks and in 26 games this season, has 26 points (11g-15A).  If you’ve not seen him play, I will tell you this,  offensively he’s gifted, and has a keen eye, and will make plays.  Yet like some young players, his game in the defensive zone needed work, and hopefully his time in Rockford will have helped him with that.  Believe me, if you were sent to Rockford, you’d work on your game too (I’ve been there, and it’s nothing like Florida, let alone Chicago).

With Aleksander Barkov out of the lineup, and Nick Bjugstad having been moved up to the top line, the perfect spot for Pirri would be on the second line as opposed to the third.  His body type and style isn’t meant for a third line role, therefore he hopefully will take advantage of this opportunity (should it be given to him).

The Bruins have beaten the Panthers in all three games the teams have played this season, and have outscored the Cats 13-5.  Tuukka Rask is 3-0-0 and has a sparkling 1.67 GAA and a .940 save percentage against Florida.  They’ll be hard to play against as always, and will give the Panthers more than they can handle if they aren’t ready.  This isn’t a game where the Panthers can afford mistakes, or to be fancy.  There needs to be more north-south hockey, and very little east-west, and no “cute” plays.

The Bruins have nine players who have scored goals in double digits, and are second in the Eastern conference in goals scored with 188.  Two players in particular are “hot” for the Bruins.  Milan Lucic has four goals and eight points in six games, and Jarome Iginla has six goals and 13 assists in 12 games.  All four lines are capable of scoring, and all four lines are capable of playing with skill, and with sandpaper.

The Panthers will need to come out with some “bite” tonight, and will also need to keep their composure.  Boston will try to force a mistake, and will look to pounce on any opportunity they can create.  Staying out of the penalty box is a must tonight, but so is playing a full 60 minutes, and having a good start.  Things we’ve said more than once this season.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, and Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop,  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

Will March Belong to Shawn Matthias Again?

Ah March.

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and yes, Shawn Matthias is scoring.

Just as it was last season when injuries freed up valuable minutes to any player willing to work hard enough to take them, the Panthers’ most enigmatic forward is once again heating up as the team plays for pride during the final full month of the 2013-14 regular season.

Yes, just as college basketball goes mad in March, so to does Matthias.

In a trend that began last year when he played his way into the national spotlight after scoring 11 goals during the month of March – including two stellar goals in particular that earned him some extended airtime on ESPN and an ESPY nomination – Matthias has once again found himself heating up as we wave goodbye to February.

[Read more…]

No Disciplinary Hearing for Tim Thomas

After last nights shellacking against the Boston Bruins, word spread like wild fire that Tim Thomas could face the wrath of NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his high-stick swing on Carl Soderberg seconds before the final buzzer of the 6-2 loss. 

It was announced this morning that Thomas would not face any consequences for the hit. Thomas received a 2-minute minor for the incident.

[Read more…]

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